2016-09-22 / Front Page

Few Options for Habituated Coyotes

By Jack Kelly

Last week’s article on the collared coyote Cliff (“Euthanized: Final Fate for Coyote,” Sept. 15) raised some interesting questions about the well-being of the animal. A number of readers questioned whether he could be trapped or tranquilized and moved to a rural area elsewhere.

It is illegal to move a habituated coyote to another region, because it will continue its habits and place another community at possible risk. According to Numi Mitchell of the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study, “Cliff is a pack animal and he would definitely try to return to his pack, most likely suffering attacks from coyote packs in the new area. He would probably perish from these attacks or be struck by a vehicle in his attempts to return to his pack.”

Despite the best efforts of the NBCS to mitigate and “reset” the coyote’s behaviors, it appears that all efforts have failed due to the continued feeding of the animal by the public.

The Middletown Police Department, acting on the recommendation of the NBCS, recently declared that Cliff has become a public safety risk and should be shot.

“The NBCS is cooperating with the Middletown Police and is using tracking information to determine his location; however, for the past few days, weather, location, and Murphy’s Law have played a role in our inability to bring this situation to a close,” Mitchell said. “Cliff has been staying in residential areas where it is illegal and unsafe to shoot.”

At approximately 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Cliff was observed sitting at a school bus stop in Middletown. The coyote’s actions have crossed the safety boundary and his habituation has deepened.

“As he has become increasingly habituated and all too comfortable around humans, it is starkly clear that more people have started to feed him, and perhaps his fellow pack members as well,” Mitchell added. “This case deeply underscores the seriousness of habituating coyotes by feeding, whether directly or inadvertently. There is no quick, safe or legal way to hunt and kill problem coyotes in residential settings.”

Mitchell has a message for the best way to move forward from this situation. “Aquidneck Islanders could avoid this scenario altogether by securing all food away from coyotes and not directly feeding them. Why train coyotes to be a problem?”

Articles in the July 21 and 28 editions of Newport This Week contain the beginning of Cliff’s story and the dramatic steps which the NBCS has taken to reverse Cliff’s behavior before his descent into habituation. They may be referenced under the “Past Issues” tab at newportthisweek.com.

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